Saturday, July 30, 2016

Classic Days at Schloss Dyck, August 5-7, 2016

Mercedes-Benz 500 SL Rallye (R 107). The vehicle was prepared for the 1981 season but not used. Photo taken in 2012 at the Ascari Racetrack in Spain. Jochen Mass at the wheel.

During the Classic Days Schloss Dyck 2016, Mercedes-Benz will relate a fascinating chapter in the brand's 130-year history: the tradition of open-top automobiles as symbols of luxurious sportiness. The Mercedes-Benz 500 K Special Roadster can be admired in the orangery during the "Jewels in the Park" concours d’é légance. In the drivers' paddock and on the 2.8-kilometre long circuit, Jutta Benz will present the Patent Motor Car and Ellen Lohr and Roland Asch the Mercedes 120 HP racing car of 1906 and the Mercedes-Benz 500 SL rally car (R 107) of 1981. In addition there is a strong presence by the ALL TIME STARS (ATS), with numerous open-top cars: The lineup of models for sale from the Mercedes-Benz Museum is expected to include a Mercedes-Benz 630 supercharged car, a 280 SL "Pagoda" (W 113), a 300 SL (R 107), an SLK 32 AMG (R 170), a smart crossblade and an E 320 Cabriolet (A 124), as well as a model 230 (W 123) Saloon. The Classic Days Schloss Dyck will take place from 5 to 7 August, 2016 near Neuss, at one of the most elegant moated castles in the Lower Rhine region

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The mercedes Benz S 500 Intelligent Drive Research Vehicle

The "Bertha Benz" S-Class (S 500 Intelligent Drive) successfully drove itself from Mannheim to Pforzheim in 2013. Three years later, it is being retired to the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
  • The "Bertha Benz" S-Class successfully drove autonomously from Mannheim to Pforzheim in 2013.
  • Now, just three years later, it is being retired to the Museum.
Stuttgart. It has shown what is technically possible in principal: when "Bertha", as the S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE research vehicle was known inside the company, autonomously drove the historic route from Mannheim to Pforzheim in autumn 2013, she proved that self-driving cars are no longer something out of science fiction. By completing the world's first autonomous journey in everyday overland and city traffic, she succeeded – like her namesake 125 years previously – in making a pioneering achievement. That "Bertha" gets it rightful place of honor in the Mercedes-Benz museum shows, how fast self-drive technology is advancing. From 26 July until 25 September, she will be on show in the Atrium (entrance hall), where she can be admired by visitors.
Equipped with close-to-production technology and abundant computing power, she was on the road in 2013 to provide the development engineers at Mercedes-Benz with valuable findings based on the new E-Class, where a new milestone has been achieved. "The sum of technologies for the interconnection of state-of-the-art assistance systems makes the E-Class the most intelligent saloon in its class – a digital native," explains Prof. Dr Thomas Weber, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. In Nevada, the highly automated standard-production E-Class has been granted a licence for an autonomous driving trial. Despite innovative features such as DRIVE PILOT and Active Brake Assist with cross-traffic function and pedestrian detection, the vehicle can still not be left entirely to its own devices in everyday traffic.
What still needs to be done? The interconnection of the sensors requires further optimisation, and the sensors themselves still have potential for improvement. For instance, they are still highly dependent on the weather, with great challenges being posed by heavy rain, snowfall and consequent fouling of the sensors. "Another problem, strangely enough, is traffic lights, which must under no circumstances be misinterpreted," explains Prof. Dr Ralf G. Herrtwich, Head of Vehicle Automation and Chassis Systems at Mercedes-Benz. If there are many sets of lights at a junction, the challenge is to identify which lights are relevant for the vehicle. This also requires the detection of arrows that are just a few pixels in size from a certain distance. There is often also the problem of backlight. "This is where we are at the technical limit of what present-day sensors can detect," adds Herrtwich.
A further focus is on even more precise environment recognition through improved image interpretation. "With the help of deep learning methods, there has been a significant improvement in the way a vehicle is able to classify its environment," says Herrtwich. So-called deep learning computers interpret images not pixel by pixel, but in their entirety. The on-board computer need no longer be trained in every detail. It can identify key characteristics and similarities in images and is capable of interpreting typical street scene structures of one city and applying them to those of another city.
The further development of vehicle sensors for even better environment recognition, as well as even more extensive connection of vehicles with each other and with the infrastructure, are building blocks on theway towards making cars ever more intelligent. The goal is to take more pressure off the driver by enabling the vehicle to act autonomously in stressful situations. However, the ultimate responsibility still rests with the human, who is able to intervene at any time. With the integration of deep learning methods, the developers are pursuing a revolutionary goal: the development of the fully driverless vehicle.
A corresponding pilot project was launched last year by Bosch, car2go and Daimler: automated parking in a multi-storey car park. A customer uses their smartphone to book a vehicle from car2go. As soon as the user is ready in the pick-up zone of the multi-storey car park, the car is fetched automatically and the journey can begin. The vehicle can be returned just as conveniently. The customer parks the vehicle in the drop zone and hands back the vehicle via their smartphone. Once registered by the intelligent multi-storey car park system, the car is started and guided to an assigned parking spot.
The next step is the idea, that car-sharing deals would generally become more customer-friendly. Customers would not have to bring fetch their vehicl, but it would automatically come to them. A quite realistic scenario, in its implementation, Daimler AG is working intensively together with partners.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

He Traded a Studebaker and a Packard for a Grinder Organ: Band Organ Rally at Carillon Park, Dayton, Ohio

I went to the Band Organ Rally today at Carillon Park and visited with friend Bob and his wife. The earth must be tipping off its axis!! -- Bob no longer has Studebakers and Packards, but rather two grinder organs. He says maintenance costs are now far less!

It was a pleasant change for me to get away from cars and hear some very calming and pleasant sounds.

A 1969 Jaguar XKE Coupe, a Red 1971 Corvette, and a Pretty Girl!

HI folks -- last night I and the good fortune of going to the Friday night Beavercreek, OH, Cruise-In.  There I was happy to see Robert Shinkle, Carolyn Beauregard Shinkle, and their daughter Caroline. For years I worked with Carolyn's father, Dr. Irving Beauregard at the University of Dayton until his passing.  Irving was one of my favorite history faculty members --  I always remember him fondly for his dry humor, but more importantly his total commitment to his job as a Professor.

So what we have here are a few photos from last night. Caroline would make her Grandfather proud -- a brilliant and beautiful young woman who recently graduated from MIT and now works at the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C.

You have a great legacy, Irving, if you are listening!

Friday, July 22, 2016

How the Porsche 919 Hybrid Works

This weekend the Le Mans Prototype Porsche 919 Hybrid has its only 2016 appearance in Germany. At the fourth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the series’ leader fights for points for its title defence. At the same time its mission is the technology of future sports cars.
With the 919 Hybrid, Porsche has developed a new field of technology at racing speed. For the “Mission E”, a fully electric road-going concept sports car unveiled in 2015, the designers adopted the 800-Volt technology from the prototype racer. Porsche has exhausted all possibilities in designing the two-time Le Mans winner – especially in terms of the drive concept. It consists of the two-litre, V4 turbocharged petrol engine, the most efficient combustion motor that Porsche has built up to now, and two different energy recovery systems.

One turbine converts surplus energy into electrical energy

During braking, a generator at the front axle converts the car’s kinetic energy into electrical energy. In the split exhaust system, one turbine drives the turbocharger while another converts surplus energy into electrical energy. The braking energy contributes 60 per cent, with the remaining 40 per cent coming from exhaust gas. The recuperated electrical energy is stored temporarily in a lithium-ion battery and feeds an electric motor on demand. “On demand” means: the driver wants to accelerate and calls up the energy at the press of a button. In accordance with the latest regulation changes, the power from the combustion engine is just under 368 kW (500 HP), and the output from the electric motor is well over 294 kW (400 HP).

The use and interplay of these two energy sources require a sophisticated strategy. In every braking phase, energy is won – that is, recuperated. On the Nürburgring’s 5.148-kilometre Grand Prix circuit this happens 17 times per lap, before every corner. The amount of recovered energy depends on the severity of the braking manoeuvre, or in other words, the speed at which the driver arrives at the corner and how tight it is. Braking and recuperation last until the apex of every corner, the driver then accelerates again. In this moment, the aim is to utilise as much energy as possible. Hence, the driver steps on the throttle pedal using fuel energy, and also “boosts” electrical energy from the battery.The hybrid powertrain of the Porsche 919 Hybrid

While the combustion engine drives the rear axle, the electric motor takes care of the front axle. The 919 catapults out of the corner without any loss of traction using all-wheel drive – and in the process recuperates energy again because on the straights the extra turbine in the exhaust tract is hard at work. At constantly high engine speeds, the pressure in the exhaust system increases rapidly and drives the second turbine connected directly to an electric generator. Both energy sources, however, are limited by the regulations: a driver may not use more than 1.8-litres of fuel per lap and no more than 1.3 kilowatt hours (4.68 megajoules) of electricity. He must calculate this carefully so that at the end of the lap he has used exactly this amount – no more, no less. He who uses more is penalised. He who uses less, loses performance. He must stop “boosting” and lift his foot off the throttle at exactly the right moment.

Converted to the 13.629-kilometre lap of Le Mans, which is the scale model for the regulations, the amount of electrical energy allowed is 2.22 kilowatt hours. This corresponds to eight megajoules – and that is the highest energy class stipulated in the regulations. Porsche was the first and in 2015 the only manufacturer that dared to push the limits so far. In 2016 Toyota is also competing in the eight megajoule class. Audi uses six megajoules. The WEC regulations almost completely balance these differences.The Porsche 919 Hybrid is an example of extreme lightweight design

For the concept choice for the Porsche 919 Hybrid a very close look at the individual alternatives was taken. There was no question that Porsche would use the braking energy at the front axle as this means a huge amount of energy from areas already partially developed combined with massive progress. For the second system brake energy recuperation at the rear axle or through utilising exhaust gas were considered. Two aspects pointed in favour of the exhaust solution: Firstly weight, and then efficiency.
With brake energy recovery, the system has to recuperate energy within a very short space of time, which means coping with a lot of energy, but at the expense of weight. The acceleration phases, however, are much longer than the braking phases, which allow a longer period of recuperation and make the system lighter. Plus with the combustion engine the 919 already has a drive system on the rear axle. Even more power at the rear would have generated more inefficient wheel spin. Moreover, this leads to heavy tyre wear.

Porsche was opting for 800 Volts

Arguably Porsche’s bravest decision for the hybrid system of the 919 was opting for 800 Volts. Establishing the voltage level is a fundamental decision in electric drive systems. It influences all else – the battery design, electronics design, e-motor design and charging technology. Porsche pushed this as far as possible.
It was difficult to find components for this high voltage, particularly a suitable storage medium. Flywheel generator, supercapacitors or battery? Porsche chose a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery, with hundreds of individual cells, each enclosed in its own cylindrical metal capsule – seven centimetres high and 1.8 centimetres in diameter.

Power density and energy density must be balanced

In both a road and racing car, power density and energy density must be balanced. The higher the power density of a cell, the faster energy can be recharged and released. The other parameter, energy density, determines the amount of energy that can be stored. In racing, the cells – figuratively speaking – must have a huge opening. Because as soon as the driver brakes, a massive energy hit comes in, and when he boosts it must leave at exactly the same speed.
An everyday comparison: If an empty lithium-ion battery in a smartphone had the same power density as the 919, it would be completely recharged within a lot less than a single second. The downside: A brief chat and it would be empty again. So that the smartphone lasts for days, the energy density has priority, and that means storage capacity.

Porsche development gained important expertise

In an electric car for everyday use, storage capacity translates into range. In this regard, the requirements of the racing car and a road-going electric car therefore are different. But with the 919 Porsche has advanced into regions of hybrid management that were previously unimaginable. The 919 served as the testing lab for the voltage level of future hybrid systems. Important basic knowledge was discovered during the LMP1 programme. Such as cooling for the energy storage (battery) and the electric motor, the connection technology for extreme high voltage as well as the battery management and the systems’ design. From this experience, the colleagues in production development gained important expertise for the four-door concept car Mission E with 800-Volt technology. From this concept car a series product will appear by the end of the decade to become the first purely electric driven Porsche.

Bertha Benz

Detroit. Bertha Benz, first female automotive pioneer, was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame on the evening of 21st July 2016.  As the visionary business partner of engineer husband Carl Benz (inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1984), she played a significant role in the filing of the first patent for the automobile in 1886 and demonstrating the road capability of her husband’s invention.  As a result, her place in history as the first female automotive pioneer has been secured. 
Bertha Benz enabled her husband Carl Benz to run his own company and pursue his invention by providing the financial basis to do so. She invested both her inheritance from her parents and her personality to make a technological breakthrough possible. That also needed a good understanding and a clear vision of the importance of her husband’s work, as she wanted this vision to become reality. It’s easy to imagine that Bertha had a very strong personality, as she most certainly was not only the “important wife behind an important husband.”  Bertha was actually pushing him to trust in his abilities to make his vision come true, to get through hard times, and to try harder each time. 
“My great grandmother always was of great importance to me. The role she played in making her husband’s invention become reality always used to be an important topic in our family. And personally, I was – and still am – putting a lot of efforts into helping to communicate that it needed Bertha Benz to make all this happen,” said Jutta Benz, great-granddaughter of Bertha and Carl Benz. “As the role of a wife was in the late 1800s, she also had to take care of the family, raise five children, do all the housekeeping, cooking etc. Thus, it was as twice as much she accomplished compared to a man. So if I may say so, it’s about time that Bertha Benz becomes inducted to the hall of fame – 32 years after Carl and 130 years after her achievements. For me personally it is of great satisfaction that my great grandmother is being honored now.”
Until now, Mrs. Benz has been most famous for her legendary role as the first person to take long-distance automotive road trip, traveling from Mannheim to Pforzheim in August 1888 with her two sons Richard and Eugen, unbeknownst to her husband. What is today about an hour’s drive (100 km or about 60 miles) took much longer during that era.
According to her great-granddaughter Jutta Benz, the road trip was very brave, too, since she didn’t prepare the drive to ensure that her husband wasn’t aware of it. If a problem occurred, she fixed it. She stopped at a pharmacy in Wiesloch which became the first gas station of the world to buy “Ligroin,” a cleaning fluid that kept the car running.  Another stop included a shoemaker shop to have him repair the leather on a brake shoe.  The pin of her hat was used to clean a clogged fuel line, and she resolved a problem of an ignition wire by using her garter as an insulator. That also proves that she had certain knowledge of the technology how the patent motor car was being operated. Her findings also helped Carl Benz to improve the car further, so she also was the first quality manager of the automobile industry. With her pioneering trip she proved the suitability of her husband’s invention for daily use.
But that was just the start of an ongoing story of success for the automobile. This road trip not only reaffirmed Carl Benz’s work, but bolstered both sales and marketing efforts in making the Benz patent motor car a success on the market. 
“In the years to follow and with new products developed, Benz & Company became the leading manufacturer of automobiles worldwide around the turn of century, said Christian Boucke, head of Mercedes-Benz Classic. “We are very proud that Bertha Benz is now in the Automotive Hall of Fame together with her husband Carl – she really deserves it!”
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the automotive patent of Carl Benz is a major contributor to the world’s cultural heritage, and thus it was officially included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in May 2011, showing its global relevance and symbolizing the origin of today’s mobile society.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II touring racer (W 201)

A legend returns to the track: the original Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II (EVO II) from the 1991 German Touring Car Championship (DTM) is making a return. Now as then, the driver is brand ambassador Kurt Thiim, who in 1991 won a DTM race on the Norisring in the very same EVO II. The touring racer had its second premiere on 23 July 2016 at the Touring Car Classics race as part of the "FIA WEC 6 Hours of Nürburgring" (22 to 24 July 2016). Having acquired the vehicle in 2015 in its original condition from the 1993 racing season, Mercedes-Benz Classic restored and prepared it for use in historical motor sport.
Stuttgart. The Touring Car Classics are an authentic racing experience with vehicles from the era of the first DTM. In June, the new series of historical motor sport celebrated its premiere. Eligible are vehicle models that took part in the German Touring Car Championship (1984 to 1996) or in the Super Touring Car Cup (1994 to 1999). The racing cars must conform to the technical regulations at the time. The organisers also set great store by historical authenticity when it comes to the appearance of the body.
With the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II of the 201 model series, Mercedes-Benz Classic has produced a shining example of how to put these requirements superbly into practice: Kurt Thiim's original DTM vehicle from 1991 has been restored by the DTM experts from HWA and prepared for use in historical motor sport in conformance with the 1991 regulations. All the safety-relevant components have been completely renewed.
The restorers had excellent "raw material" to work with, as the vehicle, which has been in the possession of the Stuttgart-based brand since 2015, was in the same original condition as at the end of the 1993 racing season. The EVO II was raced for just three years: in the 1991 DTM season, Kurt Thiim achieved one victory (Norisring) and two second places (Norisring and Singen). In 1992 and 1993, the car was then used by Olaf Manthey and Uli Richter in the VLN endurance championship. They posted ten overall victories, 15 pole positions and 13 fastest laps.
On 23 July 2016, the DTM classic racer makes its second racetrack debut – at the Touring Car Classics on the Nürburgring. The Touring Car Classics programme as part of the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Nürburgring begins on Friday (22 July) at 11.25 a.m. with the free practice, followed by the first qualifying at 2.55 p.m. Saturday (23 July) sees the second qualifying at 11.20 a.m., while the race, which lasts 40 minutes, starts at 4.35 p.m.
The driver from Mercedes-Benz Classic at the Touring Car Classics
Kurt ThiimBorn on 3 August 1958 in Vojens, Luxembourg
The Dane Kurt Thiim began his motor sport career in 1974 with kart racing (Danish karting champion in 1985) and outings in Formula Ford 1600. His victories took him up the ladder as far as Formula 3, from where Thiim switched to touring car racing, winning the 1986 German Touring Car Championship in a Rover Vitesse. After that, he firmly established himself in Mercedes-Benz vehicles, going on to drive for AMG-Mercedes from the middle of the 1988 season. Up to 1991, he achieved good finishes and individual victories, first for AMG-Mercedes and then, from 1992, for Zakspeed-Mercedes (1992 vice champion). He later drove for the UPS team in an AMG-Mercedes. In 1991, Thiim also took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Sauber-Mercedes C 11, in a team with Stanley Dickens and Jonathan Palmer. However, the vehicle dropped out in the course of the race. He belonged to Mercedes-Benz's racing squad until 1997, after which he drove for various teams and in different championships.

In 1989, the standard-production Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16 as an Evolution model gave rise to a new variant targeted at the German Touring Car Championship. To get down to the regulation weight of 1040 kilograms, almost the entire interior was taken out, with a safety cage being installed instead. The plastic material Kevlar was used for numerous body parts, such as the bonnet, boot lid and spoiler. The new model with the unwieldy name was called "EVO" for short and, from 1990, was also known as "EVO I" to distinguish it from its successor. In August 1989, work began on the second stage of development, EVO II, in an in-house department called Mercedes-Benz sport technik (st). The 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II made its racing debut on 16 June 1990 on the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring. The EVO II restored by Mercedes-Benz Classic in 2016 for historical motor sport is an original DTM vehicle from the 1991 season that was subsequently used for two years in long-distance races. Prior to its restoration by the DTM experts from HWA, the vehicle had completed a total of 13,702 documented kilometres on the race track.
Technical data of the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II touring racer, 1991Cylinders: 4/in-line
Displacement: 2490 cc
Output: 274 kW (373 hp) at 9500 rpm
Top speed: around 300 km/h

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with City Pilot - 12 miles driven in Amsterdam

Mercedes-Benz is bullish on autonomous bus technology, and today it revealed the Future Bus with CityPilot, a landmark vehicle capable of driving itself more than 12 miles in an urban environment. The bus is Mercedes' vision for public transportation in the future and uses cameras, radar, and connected data to drive itself.

CityPilot advances the technology used for Highway Pilot, which was shown on a Mercedes work truck two years ago. The city version is designed to navigate busy areas with lots of people, and it can recognize traffic lights – and communicate with them – and people, obstacles, and other potential things a bus would encounter during urban driving. The bus also can navigate tunnels, brake on its own, and can automatically open and close its doors. It has a top speed of 43.5 miles per hour.

As evidence, Mercedes operated the bus autonomously in the Netherlands. It completed the bus rapid transit route from Schiphol airport in Amsterdam to a town called Haarlem, a nearly 12-mile drive with bends, tunnels, and traffic lights. Mercedes says the driver only needs to take control when the bus faces oncoming traffic, in line with local laws, and does not need to intervene in any way, though the human pilot remains in place at all times.

The Future Bus is based on Mercedes' Citaro bus, which measures 39.4 feet and is widely used in cities around the world. The Future Bus' interior has an open layout designed to conjure images of parks and open spaces. It has designer seats, grab rails that look like trees, and a canopy-style roof. There are three areas based on the passengers' time on the bus.

A spokesperson said the bus is a technological demonstration and not planned for public use, though its systems could be used in production. She wouldn't comment on US implications. The Future Bus will be on display in September at the IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Germany. "These features of the Mercedes-Benz Future Bus will be tested, optimized, and brought to series readiness throughout the next years in order to introduce them in our series vehicles in the near future," she said.

The 1979 to 1980 Oil Crisis and the American Automobile Industry: An Introduction

Any notion of having a discussion on car culture without placing it in critical historical context is fraught with difficulties, particularly when dealing with the recent past. And it begs the question as to whether culture reflects, anticipates, or follows the political, social and economic environment. The structure of the automobile industry, its geographical locus of activities, management-union relationships, assembly line processes, government oversight, market dynamics, consumer preferences, and the products themselves have all changed dramatically during the past thirty-five years. Car culture(s) remains significant; but profound generational differences related to the so-called “love affair” with the automobile exist. Take where I live, Dayton, Ohio, for example. On any summer Friday night gray-haired men and a few of their wives gather around hot rods and cars from the 1950s and 1960s in a defunct car dealership lot.  On Saturday morning a very different group of folks – mostly young people with their wives and girl friends and middle aged enthusiasts, meet for cars and coffee at an upscale suburban shopping village to look at tuners, newer sports cars, and a few odds and ends. Further, a large number of Millenials avoid cars or at least love of the car, altogether.  Having moved back to the heart of Dayton, they find entertainment in the historical Oregon District.
Despite the contentious discussions that continue to surround the future of the automobile, however, the car still powerfully influences contemporary literature and music and shapes the lives and lifestyles of many Americans from all classes. Our selective study of the automobile and American life has pointed to a number of significant discontinuities that had an enormous effect on ordinary people and their everyday lives during the post-WWII era, but two events stand out. One was the Oil Shock of 1979, and the other was the Great Recession of 2008, which for the automobile industry really began as early as 2006. 2

Oil Shock II, the Big Three, and Japan
The immediate cause of Oil Shock II was the overthrow of an unpopular government in Iran. However, increased global oil demand and the nation’s inability to formulate an energy policy centering on reducing demand also contributed to an event that took the United States into uncharted economic and political waters. Shah Muhammed Reeza Pahlavi led a repressive and authoritarian regime in Iran, but he was also seen as a friend of the United States and key to the stability of the region.  Iran had stepped up production after the 1973 Oil Shock, thus contributing to Western recovery. But beginning in 1978 a revolution took place that ended in 1979, when in the words of Lee Iacaocca “the Sahh left town.” In his place was the hostile government of Sheikh Khomeni as the grand ayatollah of the Islamic Republic, and the subsequent decline of 4.8 million barrels of oil per day, or 7% of the world’s output. Prices doubled between April of 1979 and April of 1980, due more to speculative hoarding than actual supply shortages.  And inflation in the U.S. rose in an alarming fashion, up to 15 % annually, eventually falling to 4% by the end of 1982 after Federal Reserve Bank monetary policies were implemented. [endnote]
The non-cyclical economic decline resulting from Oil Shock II resulted in record Big Three deficits. In 1980, Chrysler, as previously discussed, faced bankruptcy as it lost $4 billion that year. In similar fashion, Ford incurred a $1.5 billion deficit, and GM $8 billion. Job losses followed:  six assembly plants were shuttered, some 200,000 workers lost their jobs, and unemployment in the automotive sector rose from 3.9 percent in 1978 to 20.4 percent in 1980. An industrial transformation in the U.S. followed. Subsequent developments led MIT industry analyst Martin Anderson to state that the changes in the auto industry “constituted the largest shift in technological, human, and capital resources in U.S. industrial history.”3
            American manufacturers found themselves making the wrong sized cars, often in outdated assembly plants. Meanwhile, the top Japanese brands – Toyota, Datsun (Nissan) and Honda – increased their sales 29% between 1979 and 1982. In response U.S. makers began to introduce new, smaller and fuel efficient cars, like the Ford “world car” Escort, the Chrysler K- Car, and the GM J-Car. [endnote]
In response to this sharp economic downturn, automobile executives closed plants and began massive capital investment initiatives to regain their competitive advantage. Among other things, they bet that robots could replace assembly line workers. The widespread implementation of these robotic devices resulted in the shop floor being radically different than those associated with mid-twentieth century Fordism. Presses, while still in use, no longer were central to the auto manufacturing process; rather, images of robotic arms stretched over unitized steel shells that were moving rapidly down the line represented the changing industry. The threat from robots was so significant in our culture at that time that one scholar has suggested that the popularity of “The Terminator” film, released in 1984, was a consequence of fears concerning the automated assembly line. It was perhaps satisfying then, that at the end of this movie Sarah terminated the Terminator, and sent what was left to the melting pot.4 However, in the real world automobile workers were largely powerless subjects in an irreversible transition where global competitiveness demanded lower labor costs.
 Oil Shock’s Lessons Not Learned

            A serious response to the oil crisis as it related to the automobile in America came from Lester Brown, of the Worldwatch Institute. In 1979 Brown, with Christopher Flavin and Colin Norman, coauthored Running on Empty: The Future of the Automobile in an Oil-Short World.27 Brown’s analysis, obviously rushed given the circumstances of the oil crisis, was based on common sense. He advised American manufacturers to market fuel-efficient automobiles while working on new technologies. Furthermore, Brown clearly pointed out that oil supplies would be depleted in the long run, yet in the years after the oil crisis subsided, few took Brown and others seriously. By 1985, large cars, mini-vans, trucks, and sport utility vehicles filled dealers’ showrooms and lots. Manufacturers made huge profits on these larger vehicles, while claiming that consumers demanded these excessive forms of transformation. And thus lessons from Oil Shocks I and II were not learned, promising research projects in alternative fuels and power systems were abandoned, and large numbers of light trucks emerged on the American scene.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Overselling the Automated Car

a future Mercedes-Benz?

Steven E. Shadover has written a thoughtful and provocative article  entitled "The Truth About 'Self-Driving' Cars" that appeared in the June 2016 issue of Scientific American (volume 314, pp. 52-57).

Shadover argues that the fully automated car has been oversold by both the press and that automobile industry, and that it is in reality far away from widespread adoption -- in his estimation 2075,although he concedes that it might be a bit soon, but"not by much." He does concede that cars are getting smarter -- lane avoidance capabilities, frontal crash deterrents, and more.  But to get to the final level of automated driving takes phenomenal software that will take years to develop, because of the realities of driving challenges. Snow and ice, left turns, and other challenges take the remarkable capabilities of a human brain to negotiate.  Even simple road encounters "pose huge challenges fore computers, and robotic chauffeurs remain decades away." Shadover asserts "that are pretty smart these days. Yet it is an enormous leap from sun systems [as now exist] to fully automated driving." What the automobile industry and media have generated are optimistic predictions and projections that have entered a feedback loop "that is a spiral of unrealistic expectations."

During he next 5-10 years we can look back at this article as a reference point.  Will it be cited as another pessimistic view that proved to be terribly wrong?  Or a prophetic statement that points to the limits of humans to shape their electromechanical world to suit their [well, a number of ambitious engineers and capitalists, anyway] ends?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Cars and Coffee at the Greene, July 16, 2016: A BMW 635 CSI and 1967 Porsche 911S Short Wheelbase

Hi folks -- a beautiful morning for Cars and Coffee!  Two cars stood out for me.  A terrific BMW 635 CSI and a 1967 Porsche 911 S Short Wheelbase.  The BMW was darn near perfect.  The Porsche wasn't perfect, but who cars?  It is worth plenty of beans now, but more importantly an original survivor with cleaned up engine bay. Destined for return to Germany, perhaps?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Beavercreek July 15 Cruise-In: 1976 Pacer, 1967 T-Bird and 1957 Cadillac Eldorado

A hot afternoon. I went early just to try my iPhone 5 camera. Not many cars there when I got there, but true to form by 4 p.m. every spot along the far tree line was taken!  What follows are photos of a few cars that struck me as being interesting.

1957 Cadillac Eldorado Engine Bay -- 8 m.p.g ??.

1957 Eldorado Dash -- Interesting color popular back then.

1957 Eldorado Rear Taillight Treatment. One of the most distinctive and beautiful of the decade of the 1950s.

A spaceship or bio-mimicry?  1957 Eldorado Rear

1967 T-Bird Front

1976 Pacer -- not many of these left! Rust!

Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2016

The rally is being very challenging. Crossing the desert is very tough because of the conditions,” explains Charbel Habib. The 46-year-old construction engineer and his team-mate Walid Samaha have already been on the road since 12 June. They are competing in the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge with a Porsche 356C dating from 1964.
Teams from a total of 20 nations – Habib and Samaha are representing Lebanon – cover stages between 180 and 668 kilometres every day. The route takes in Mongolia, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy and Switzerland, before heading to Paris, where the competitors cross the finishing line on 17 July. Vehicles are divided into two categories according to production date: pre-1975 and pre-1941.

Porsche 356C: the legend makes its way

Drivers and cars alike have to face considerable demands along the route. And it’s no different for Charbel Habib and Walid Samaha’s Porsche 356C. Through the heat and the cold, the automotive legend makes its way over unmade roads and across difficult terrain. Assaad Raphael, Chairman of Porsche Centre Lebanon, knows that the two members of the Porsche Classic Club are well aware of their vehicle’s past: “It’s exciting to watch how the two of them are extending the history of this legendary car. We wish them all the very best and a lot of staying power for the Motor Challenge.”
You can follow the team with start number 61 on the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2016 right here. The travel diary of Charbel Habib gives you an impression of how the team expericences the rally:

Day 1: Sunday, June 12
Milage: 388 km
Route: From Peking to Datong
We were surprised to be the only participants whose car is in its original shape without any tuning.
Our challenge is to master the rally with our Porsche car which has been kept in its original state and hasn’t been changed since it left the factory in 1964. The only modifications made were for security reasons, such as replacing the seat belts. Everything else has been kept intact.

Day 2: Monday, June 13
Mileage: 573 km
Route: From Datong to Erenhot
Day two was all about getting out of the city and ever closer to Mongolia.
The rally has been very challenging so far: crossing the desert is very tough with this car and in these conditions (e.g. dust).

Day 3: Tuesday, June 14
Mileage: 400 km
Route: From Erenhot to Undurshireet (Mongolia)
Today, we reached Mongolia. This country is what most of our adventurers have been waiting for.

Day 4, Wednesday, June 15, to day 9, Monday, June 20
Mileage: 1793 km (including one rest day)
Route: From Undurshireet to Chjargas Lake (Mongolia)
Day 10: Tuesday, June 21
Mileage: 350 km
Route: Chjargas Lake to Olgiy
Our car needed to be pulled out of a few sandy sections. All the cars are strong though, with good crews, and tonight, some midnight oil is being burned to get them all sorted out for tomorrow.

Day 11: Wednesday, June 22
Mileage: 180 km
Route: Olgiy to Altai Republic
After 10 days and more than 3,200 kilometers, we crossed the Mongolian border into Russia. Mongolia was very tough physically, since we were driving for 11 to 12 hours in difficult terrain. If you get distracted just for a second, you can hit a big stone that may damage the car. The camp was good, but we had to do maintenance until midnight every day.
Our mighty 356C still looks unbeatable and has proven that all errors in driving and navigation are no longer an issue.

Day 12, Thursday, June 23, to day 13, Friday, June 24
Mileage: 1110 km
Route: Altai Republic to Novosibirsk

Day 14: Saturday, June 25
Rest day
The first two days in Russia were very difficult because we had serious problems with the Porsche. In Mongolia, the petrol was 80 octane, which had a big toll on our engine, and the firing was neither good nor consistent, which affected the electrical system and the valves of the engine. Additionally, on the last day in Mongolia, we had a clutch problem due to the dust and vibration. Walid stayed up until 2 a.m. to solve this problem. Despite the difficulties, we did not miss any of the targets and are still on course.
Today, we are in Novosibirsk in order to rest and carry out repairs on our car. Walid has been working on it since 8 a.m. and, supposedly, will not be finished before 10 p.m. He is reviewing the clutch, checking a noise coming from a shock absorber and the engine valves. Moreover, he has to repair the engine guard, as it almost touches the bottom plate, check the disks and breaks, change the oil and tires and a few other things, as well.

Day 15: Sunday, June 26
Mileage: 668 km
Route: Novosibirsk to Omsk
Day 16: Monday, June 27
Mileage: 627 km
Route: Omsk to Tyumen
Today was a bad day. The engine is consuming a lot of oil and making noise. Still, we have been on time so far without any mistakes.
We have analyzed the reason behind the noise: during one of the tough Mongolian days, we opened the engine bay and saw that the two air filters had fallen off of the top of the carburetors due to heavy vibration. It seemed like the engine had sucked lots of dust.
Plan A is that a friend will bring the needed engine parts to Kazan where we meet on Friday for our next rest and maintenance day. If this doesn’t work out, Plan B is to have a replacement engine waiting for us in Poland. Admittedly, this plan sounds quite risky and I'm afraid we won’t actually be able to drive as far as Poland. In the meantime, Walid is trying to find some solution in order to delay the problem on the engine.

Day 17: Tuesday, June 28
Mileage: 384 km
Routing: Tyumen to Yekaterinburg

Day 18: Wednesday, June 29
Mileage: 420km
Route: Yekaterinburg to Perm
Our car is doing fine, but we we still need to cover 1000 km before we reach Kazan. A Russian guy will finally be able to bring the needed engine parts so that on Friday we can carry out all the repairs.
As for our daily running, we are running slowly but without missing the time targets. Due to heavy rainfalls, the organizers don’t allow any speed higher than 90 km/h anyway. Our maximum is 85 km/h to keep the engine working.

Day 19: Thursday, June 30
Mileage: 590 km
Route: Perm to Kazan
We crossed the border between Asia and Europe today. The route led us via highways and provincial roads. The car is doing well despite the engine noise.
The Russian people are very enthusiastic about the rally and the cars. In two different cities people were waiting for us to pass.

To be continued...